Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Fifth of February is Now More Than Just a Date

On 6th February, when the grand announcement of the birth of Gyalsey warmed the cold mountain air my mother called me to tell me that I had forgotten to wish my little sister on her birthday yet again. It wasn’t the first time I forgot her birthday and it always broke my heart. But this time I promised her that I shall never forget her birthday anymore because Fifth of February is never going to be just another date on the calendar. The Fifth of February is now an auspicious occasion for all times to come. I felt so proud that my sister now shared birthday with His Royal Highness, the Gyalsey.

The Fifth of February will go down in history as the day the luckiest Crown Prince in the history of the country was born. Since the beginning of monarchy in the Bhutan this day has never happened where the crown prince was born in the presence of his King Grandfather. His Majesty and Her Majesty have therefore given the best 60th birthday gift to the Great Fourth and to their people. This makes us the luckiest people in the history to be living in this glorious time and witnessing what’s nothing short of perfection.

We have already witnessed two of the greatest events in the history; the crowning glory of His Majesty the King and the Royal Wedding, both of which were extraordinarily significant because of the presence of His Majesty the Fourth King. The happiness that the nation experienced in these moments was crafted, piece by piece, over a long period of time by the king who knew the source of perfect happiness.

Three Generations of Kings in the First official Photograph of HRH Gyalsey

Today, on the auspicious day of losar we were given the gift of the first glimpse of our Gyalsey through the official photograph. The picture was so absorbing that I kept looking at it for a long time. It showed our glorious past and the beautiful present looking at the promising future. The right hand of the Great Fourth wrapped affectionately around Gyaltsen's shoulder and the left across His Majesty's lap holding the newborn- Oh it's made in heaven! It's a picture that can make your forget everything and be happy. And in this overwhelming moment the only words that keep coming to my mind is Thank You.






Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The First Bhutanese Writers’ Retreat

We called it a retreat because it was too modest to be called a festival. This was something we have been looking forward to since the time we founded Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) in 2009. This time around we entrusted two of our prominent members in Phuntsholing to lead us. Kinley Wangchuk and Namgay Tshering took less than two months to make the first ever Bhutanese Writers’ Retreat happen. It was a distant dream for the longest time, and now it seems like we have finally found our way. Thanks to the leadership of the two men.
Aue Supe with Super Presentation 

The event took place on 23rd Jan 2016 in a quiet conference hall of Centennial Hotel in the middle of busy Phuntsholing town. The attendance at the event was as modest as our event but quite a few people believed in us to travel from Thimphu to take part in the event while some seemed to wait till we are big enough to deserve their time. We might never make it there but if we ever do we shall remember the people who were with us during our small beginnings, who did more than just watching us struggle. It’s been years now and I know if some of our established writers showed a little faith and came together we could have already come up with something substantial to proudly call our own.

Super Cop in Deep Muse 
In 2003 I completed my first book of short stories and invested all my pocket money into printing the manuscript. First I didn’t know where to go and second the places I went to didn’t even read my stories, and at last they threw away my manuscript. Thirteen years have passed and I haven’t published that book yet. This need not happen to any aspiring writer now. There are people at WAB who will read the manuscript and if the stories are good then we have a team to edit the story, layout the book, design the cover, find financial support for printing if necessary, and produce a book that is of international standard. This already happened with at least six new authors. With each new book we have learned better ways to do things.
The Modest Population
And the Retreat is to celebrate and showcase our team efforts because everyone at WAB is a part timer and every new author is a new team member. So at the retreat we come together to share experiences, to promote books, to have workshops on writing, editing, publishing, and book designing. It’s basically to beat the path to publication flatter.
My Friend and Co Founder Nawang on Alternative Publishing 
Following list of activities from the event will tell you what the retreat was all about:
  1. Mindfulness – Namgay Tshering
  2. Book Promotion and Sale: Kadrinche-beyond words, Cronical of a Love Foretold, Darkest June, La Ama, Barnyard Murder, and Restless Relic
  3. On the road to publication- Experience sharing by Kinley wangchuk and Karma Tenzin Yongba
  4. Poetic Inspiration- Tshering C Dorji
  5. Simplicity in Writing- Kunga Tenzin Dorji (Supe)
  6. Writers and Blogging- PaSsu
  7. Editor’s Story- Needup Zangpo
  8. Elements of Detective stories – Karma Tenzin Yongba
  9. Crowd Publishing- Alternative Publishing- Nawang P Phuntsho
  10. Book signing by Authors; Karma Tenzin Yongba and Kinley Wangchuk

The day was overloaded but every session seemed to bring another dead cell in me back to live. That evening I threw myself on my bed in complete exhaustion but I couldn’t help smiling in satisfaction.  I have never been more motivated to dust my old manuscript and dream of publishing again.
Among the many conferences, retreats, and forums I have attended on my own expenses so far this one put an additional smile on my face because I was given a free accommodation in a nice hotel, not to mention the magnificent venue and meals since our arrival on 22nd Jan evening till our departure on 24th Jan afternoon. Therefore I would like to thank the duo Namgay Tshering, and Kinley Wangchuk for paving the difficult path and would like to join them and their supporters in thanking the event sponsors on behalf of WAB:
  • Proprietor of Dophu Transport, Karma Dophu Thinley
  • Proprietor of Namgay Woods, Dasho KS Dhendup
  • CEO of Bhutan Polythnen Company
  • CEO of Rabdhuen Pvt Ltd
  • Mr. Sonam Wangchuk and Yanka of Phuntsho Norphel Trading
  • Proprietor of Centennial Hotel


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Story About and Inside Monu's Book

Monu Tamang made a news with his first book 'Joy of Beautiful Dreams' when he was still in high school. Then he left for college in India on scholarship where along with his four years physiotherapy course he completed his first novel 'Chronicle of a Love Foretold' and made another news.

The story about the book and the story in the book, both are equally fascinating. A young college student publishing a novel in itself is a big story considering how lots of young people waste their college life like vacation. Besides the book was crowd published, which made another story. It's a unique model improvised by my friend and co-founder of Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) Nawang Phuntsho that divides the cost of publishing into packets and allow individuals to invest in parts. Monu's book was jointly published by over 30 WAB members and what is more interesting is the marketing strategy the model offers. All 30 investors become marketers making the model crowd publishing and crowd marketing. Thus the book became the fastest sold book in small Bhutanese market.

The story in the book is set in Raichur in south India and it's narrated in first person by a physiotherapy student Kinga. Personally knowing the author too well and knowing that he went to that college and took that course made it difficult for me to separate Kinga from Monu in most of the chapters. However having been there for four years Monu takes us on a very exciting tour of his college and gives us an insight into his course through Kinga with fascinating details.

It's a story of friendship and love in college told very convincingly with interesting characters. The parents elements add strength to the entire fabric of the story. Kinga loves his mother and hates his father, whom he never met. He has serious trust issues and avoids intimate relationships until he meets Namsa. She happens to be engaged with another man. And when he thinks the worst has passed he finds Rani from his past ruining his present with Namsa. She leaves and his world crumbles. Years later his patient in Paro Hospital gives him the direction in life, and more... I shall stop here before I risk ruining the charm of suspense.

In between the stories of fun the author gives us a disturbing insight into the lives of our children studying in India. This book is not for parents whose children are studying in India because it could cause heart attack. They are going to discover where their children are pumping their hard-earned money into -- romance, amusement parks, smoking, drinking, fighting, biking, holidaying ...without a care in the world. Could the rumour of some students intentionally failing so that they could go to Indian college be true?

The author, Monu Tamang, on the contrary not only aced his physiotherapy course but also completed a 227 paged novel, which is evident that he spent his days in India differently and did the nation proud.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending 2015 with a Bhutanese Audiobook

Every year on this day and about this time of the day I open my blog and recount the year when the rest of the world go to party. I would take great pride in the number of articles I have written and but this year I can't do that because I have underperformed. Somewhere among great people I lost my confidence to write in my own style because they wanted me to write like scholars. I failed. I need to get back soon.

But looking beyond my blog I think 2015 has been the best year of my life so far. Perhaps I have matured enough to find happiness outside my blog. Earlier no matter what I have achieved during the day my happiness always depended on what I wrote on my blog at night but this is different now. I am happy looking back on what I have achieved.

I will always remember 2015 as the year I solved Rubik's Cube. Over the months I have bettered my time and now I can do it in less than two minutes. It's only matter of time before I master it but I have gift my cube to my nephew who has already beaten my record.

The other things I would like to remember from 2015 are Yangthang READ Centre, which READ Bhutan opened in my village in the spring. This I am sure will change the quality of life in my village and therefore the future of it. To sustain the activities of the centre and engage our youth meaningfully I have founded Yangthang Village Youth Club. This club will compliment and give wings to the facilities in the centre.

My dream to see clean toilets in Bhutan was shared by a group of very close friends and we made a big beginning this year with Bhutan Toilet Organization's Nation wide campaign that involved over 300 volunteers from across the country. We have set up our office with support from many people and now we are ready for more than just cleaning.

And finally before the year ended I had one last thing to take care of which began in 2014, the production of an audiobook. With permission from author Kunzang Choden I and my 12 year old student Sonam Chuki began recording the novel Dawa-The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan last year. M-Studio did four days of recording with the little girl and took months to put together the three hours audiobook. iBest Institute took from there and helped in producing 50 CD. From the author to the recording studio to the CD producer and the cover designer Che Dorji, none of them bothered about a penny, it was all labour of love.

It was launched last week at Camp RUF during Karma Choden's reading session, and later the book was played every night as bedtime story. While this first Bhutanese audiobook could be a great educational material for all students and especially the ninth graders who have the novel in their syllabus I saw that it's a priceless gift to the visually impaired students. Therefore I have asked Sonam Chuki to send a copy to Khaling Munseling School as gift from her side among other schools.

I am yet to present a copy to author herself. We are meeting in January and I will let her listen to Sonam Chuki reading her book. If she finds it worth I am going to gift the recording to her.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Yangthang Village Youth Club


My village Yangthang was connected by road half a century years ago but it didn't change us much, other than the occasional bus services people walked most of time. There was road but people didn’t have cars to use it. Twenty years ago electricity illuminated our village. The last two decades with road and electricity both couldn't quite transform my stubborn village. We remained backward in our ways of life and in our outlook to life.

The small generation of educated lot had to leave the village, and some of them who had strong influence over the village couldn't quite reconnect to the village realities, therefore fancied the idea of maintaining our village like a living museum- after all how much can they do during their week long annual visits? 

Over the years my generation of educated lot thrived and we were bigger in number but we too had to leave the village. Our village still remained a museum and we were mere annual tourists who only dreamt of bigger changes and better lives. We were disappointed but to our credit our tradition and our values were well preserved, we were harmless as much as we were helpless. 

Then the television made a grand entry. Few households that had TV became the popular hub of social gathering, our sleep pattern changed, our conversation lessened and overnight change became evident. It was at least serving a good purpose of giving people a common place and common subject to dwell on after their hard day's works until every house hold got their own TV sets. Then it isolated families. People stopped coming out, they talking about issues in Indian serial homes rather than issues at home and in the village. Younger generation showed lesser interest in the village affairs thereby risking the natural course of transition of tradition from one generation to another. 

Just when we thought the worst have happened the smartphones revolution began and this time it didn’t take long before the urban wind blew into the villages. With huge literate population living in the village the social lives became virtual just like in towns. That’s a dangerous trend invading the most potential generation in our village at the moment.
During the Launch

While it is tempting to force some solutions out of books, we must remember the classic egg breaking analogy which goes- if an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside. We are more or less mere outsiders in our village and in their generation. If meaningful change has to happen it has to come from among themselves. We can only facilitate.
The youngest group

One of the significant facilitation was construction of the READ center in my village. It’s the first step toward an enlightened community. The facility is serving its purpose and beyond, and it’s continuously developed to suit the need of the community. It’s interesting to see how our people’s expectation from the READ center is changing and growing. At times they push the librarians to their wits end and thus we lost one librarian.

Electoral Education 
To ensure effective use of the facility and to address our growing issues, including taking responsibility of the center and other common spaces I have thought of a village youth club, which finally became a reality on the first day of Lomba. I named it Yangthang Village Youth Club. On the day of its launch we had 58 students, living and going to school from the village every day, registered as members. I am hoping this youth body, given the right conditions and opportunities, would identify and address our own local issues. I am also hoping that their unity will inspire and build harmony in the community and ensure better rural lives. Lopen Chimi Rinzin, a senior teacher and very steadfast member of the village agreed to lead the pack as the club master.

Youth goes to Poll
So far we received support from the following organization and individuals
1.     Rotary Club of Thimphu: A computer set for club works
2.    Deki Om: 45 pieces of club T Shirts
3.    Karma Yangzom: 45 pieces of club caps
4.    Dzongkhag Election office: In electing club captains.

The two individual donors are from our own village living away. Like them there are many successful folks living away from home that I hope will support the village through the club. I have received commitments from some friends for certain initiatives and I’m also looking forward to capacity building and life skills training for the members from READ Bhutan, VAST, BCMD, and YDF.

Some of the strategies outlined for the club are;

1.    Volunteerism in the Village

Yangthang Village Youth Club intends to serve the village community to address local issues and needs in the areas of health, environmental sustainability, cultural preservation, and socioeconomic development.

These activities include but are not limited to:
·      Conduct advocacy programs to promote health and hygiene in the village
·      Provide helping hands during cultivation and harvest
·      Take initiatives to manage village waste (behavioral change, waste segregation, decomposing, recycling)
·      Take ownership of common spaces in the village and initiate maintenance works to ensure the sustainability of the common spaces: Lhakhang, Archery ground, Electric fencing, Bridges, Chortens, Flood retention wall, Drainage, Road, Drinking water source, etc.
·      Volunteer and provide support during village events
·      Plan and undertake the building of small social infrastructures: Dustbins, Pit, Menchhu, Fencing, Wall, Rest House, Footpath, Water supply, etc.
·      Reforestation of barren land along the river

2.    Educational Enrichment

In addition to civic engagement, the Yangthang Village Youth Club also provides educational platforms that enrich the learning experiences of the youth members. These activities include:
·      Initiate a comprehensive village reading program
·      First Friday For Folk Tales: Invite a village elder to tell folk tales to children. Children will also attempt to rewrite the folk tales.
·      Sunday Reading Hour: One Sunday in a month, Children gather at the READ center to read for one hour together.
·      Sunday Book Talk: Another Sunday in a month, few selected children will talk about the books they read. Their reviews will be display on the wall for a month.
·      Initiate a youth mentorship program
Older youth members can provide mentorship to younger members in terms of academics and other areas of youth development
·      Initiate a Spiritual Life speakers program
Invite a local monk or nun to come speak to the youth once every month to explain some religious concept or lead a short prayer/meditation

3.    Youth Leadership

Lastly, the Yangthang Village Youth Club provides the youth members with the opportunity to learn key leadership skills through the club’s management and development. Club captains will be elected annually through standard electoral process. This not only enables the club members to practice the principles of democratic citizenship, but also enables the elected youth captains to step up and provide guidance and voice for the club members. All club members will also learn to raise and generate funds to support the club’s programs and sustainability.
Lastly, many of the club meetings and activities will be held in the READ Center in the Yangthang READ Center. The club members will be responsible for ensuring that the Yangthang READ Center facilities that they use are well-maintained, tidy, and well-utilized.

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